You are now in the main content area

Faculty and Staff Resources

If you encounter a student in crisis with immediate safety risks, ask your student to go to the nearest emergency department of their closest hospital. If your student declines and you continue to be concerned about their safety, call 9-1-1, then call security (416-979-5040) to either notify them (i.e., if person is off campus) or let them know to do a police escort (i.e. if on campus).

Often, faculty, teaching assistants and staff are the first to recognize that a student may be in distress and in need of support. Many students turn to you for advice as a first point of contact, as they know and respect you. While your role as faculty or staff does not include providing personal counseling to the student, it can help to know how best to be a support.

For further information on how to refer and how best to support a student in distress, review the “PDF fileNotice, Engage, Refer + Debrief Guideline”, a guide that outlines what kinds of distress you may notice, how to engage a student in distress, and detailed steps for referrals.

Referring a student

When to refer

A referral to the CSDC may be indicated: if you are feeling anxious, if you don’t know what you can do for the student, if you recognize that your support is no longer adequate, or if you find that the responsibility you have assumed is weighing too heavily on you.

What to Do

Listen. Take the student seriously. Show concern. Set clear limits. Consult with others. Refer the student.

What Not to Do

Don’t take on too much responsibility. Don’t deal with a crisis alone.

What to Say

Consider saying “You seem to be pretty upset about this and I think you could use some help in sorting out these issues. I’m concerned about you and I would like you to consider talking to one of our counsellors in our Centre for Student Development and Counselling”.

Urgent Referrals

If your student requires urgent support and is not in immediate crisis with safety risks, please encourage them to contact the CSDC between 9am-5pm Monday-Friday, or direct them to contact Keep.meSAFE for 24/7 support. 

If you are unsure about how to support a student in distress, please contact the CSDC between 9am-5pm or Keep.meSAFE outside of office hours for consultative support.

Contact for the CSDC: 416-979-5195 or csdc@ryerson.ca. Messages are being monitored regularly during business hours, and our front desk staff will respond as soon as possible.

Contact for Keep.me.safe program: All Ryerson students can access 24/7 mobile counselling or crisis support with Keep.meSAFE using the My SSP app. The My SSP app is available on the Apple Store, external link, or Google P, external link, external linklay, external link. Keep.meSAFE can also be accessed with a phone call by dialing 1-844-451-9700.

Students studying in the Student Learning Centre
Common signs of distress

Behavioural Changes

  • Repeated absences from class
  • Missed assignments/exams/appointments
  • Repeated requests for special accommodation (e.g., extensions on assignments)
  • Themes in creative work which reflect despair, hopelessness, isolation, violence, or rage
  • Disorganized or erratic performance
  • Direct statements indicating a personal or family problem

Physical Changes

  • Unkempt appearance with a lack of personal hygiene
  • Appearance of excessive fatigue, lack of sleep
  • Indications of substance abuse (e.g., smelling alcohol or marijuana)

Personality Changes

  • Sudden change in attitude (e.g., withdrawal, becoming unusually quiet, exhibiting  unprovoked anger or hostility)
  • Anxiety
  •  Ongoing expressions of sadness or tearfulness

Safety-risk Behaviours

  • Appearing depressed or withdrawn
  • Expressions of despair, hopelessness, helplessness
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Self-injurious behaviours (e.g., cutting)
  • Threats against others
  • Poor impulse control
  • Any written note, artwork, or verbal statement which has a sense of finality or suicidality to it

Other Changes

  • Bereavement (death of significant person) or loss (ending of relationship, failure in class)
  • Other students or peers expressing concern for the student
  • Your own sense that something is wrong

The presence of one indicator alone does not necessarily mean that the student is in distress. However, that is not always the case. It is always important to check on your concerns. That said, the more indicators that are present, the greater the likelihood that the student would benefit from a referral to a personal counsellor.

Student and professor talking
How to respond

Make Contact

  • Talk with the student in person
  • Stay calm and express your concern for the student
  • Listen carefully
  • Take the student seriously
  • Use supportive communication

Supportive Communication

Do

  • Be patient, give the student the opportunity to talk
  • Let the student know you are listening via your verbal and non-verbal responses
  • Set aside your biases
  • Be non-judgemental
  • Determine what the student needs from you

Don't

  • Minimize the student's feelings
  • Express disapproval of the student's thoughts or feelings
  • Ask "why" questions
  • Be defensive or personalize what the student is saying

Be aware of your role and responsibilities

  • Be responsive while maintaining boundaries
  • Be aware of your own limitations
  • Seek consultative support from the CSDC M-F, 9am-5pm, or Keep.meSAFE outside of regular business hours

What to Say

Consider saying “I’m glad you reached out. I can see you are upset and want to ensure you get the support you are looking for. Here are some resources that I believe will be helpful - I really encourage you to use them.

If the referral is rejected, do not take it personally. Listen to the student's concerns about seeking help. Normalize the referral process, making it clear that your wanting the student to see a counsellor does not mean that you think that there is something wrong with the student. Emphasize that counselling support at Ryerson is free and easy to access. Keep the lines of communication open.